There is something disturbing about emerging from a backcountry trip after 6 days. An uncomfortable ‘birthing’ back in to the land of the living and urban sprawl. An opposite feeling to that revelation of ease and comfort you have as you realize that you have escaped your life, job, cell phones, smelly people, cubicle, desk chair spackled existence.
On day two of this trip, producer Ken Whiting turned to us and tried to explain a feeling he had just felt. “During that hike, I had this sudden sensation that I belonged here.” Those words rang true to my very core. It was the same feeling I had been having, the same weird warmth that I was having so much trouble trying to explain soon after the packing ended and the paddling had begun.
We talk about it a lot around here. How the average person’s world seems increasingly farther and farther away from the wilderness. Forests are getting smaller and more controlled. People fear things like bugs and fish, and the simple skill of lighting a fire seems beyond far too many peoples grasp. It takes only a short while in the woods to realize that you are perfectly safe and at home out in the wilds. There will be work, pain and hardships, but your body was designed to take it, your body needs it. Your body needs to get out of the office and be set free on nature to feel whole again. A feeling many of us will never ever get to feel as we grow more and more urban, and are less apt to send our kids outdoors. Lucky for, Jim, Ken, Lisa, Jamie, and myself, we have a job that forces us outside and keeps us there. This time it lead us to the banks of the Petawawa river.
Now let me talk a bit about equipment…before I tell ya all about what happened, lets talk about how we did it.
In order to make this adventure possible, safe, and filmable… we needed some special gear. Drybags were our first priority, we needed dry clothes. NRS made bags that were perfect for us, from big bags to hold all our tents, to small bags that would fit in to the gunnels of the Trident 13 kayaks. The bags worked perfect, and everyones gear was kept perfectly dry, on a very wet trip. If you paddle a lot, get some NRS bags, these things are super tough and totally waterproof. Also, on the topic of Kayaks. The Ocean Kayaks we took on this trip served us perfect. In our opinion, no other fishing kayak coulda handled the beating.
Second, we needed to be able to recharge our batteries. We had the chance to test out Brunton’s big solar panel and battery combo. No special gear required, we just folded out the panel and it juiced up a battery that we could plug our cameras directly in to.. just like a wall socket. Worked like a charm and kept Lisa and I shooting for a whole week without a plug.
Now for safety. Jim and I aren’t whitewater ‘yakkers, se we needed a couple of helmets to keep our noggins from getting bonked. Sweet Protection’s helmets were the go to choice, as they are rugged, and still manage to look cool.
As for camping, our tents were all from Mountain Hardwear, and these babies rock. They are super lightweight and the poles can totally take the beating we put them thru running the rapids.
Last, we needed to be fed. We went with dried pre packaged camp food from Backpackers Pantry. Mostly because the food is super tasty and filling.. but as an added benefit, it packs well and is super light. I recommend the cheesecake. It rocks. Done.
The Petawawa River was amazing. Our first two days were spent on lake Traverse with none other than musky fishing legend, Jamie Pistilli. Jamie camped out with us for the first night and made sure we knew where the musky were. (as you can read in his last post) All three boys caught Musky that day. Proving that Jamie is one heck of a guide.
After leaving Jamie behind to run home and celebrate his son’s birthday (which co-incidentally also marked the anniversary of his gong show of a musky catch in Game On 1) we began a rambling row into a wonderland of Canadian fall beauty. The leaves literally changed before our eyes, from green to bright orange, to flaming red. The first day offered little in the way of musky, of which Jamie had given our anglers a burning hunger for the previous day. As we left Traverse behind, the river narrowed and the trees grew tight around us. The bitter cold of the night before finally seeped from our bones as the paddling loosened up our muscles. Jim caught another small Musky, but the big ones would just blow up and spit out our lures, leaving the anglers frustrated.
Our first campsite lay just beyond a small rapid, nestled in the elbow of the river… simply, perfect. There was an awesome little drop pool just in front of camp. In that pool lay a plethora of catfish, you could catch as many as you had soft plastic grubs. Each one was over 6 pounds, and had a fun fight to haul them up. All three of us immediately grabbed rods and jig heads and began hauling them up until our arms tired. This is what we were looking for. No one fished here, so the fishing was easy. Catfish may not be a 45 inch musky, but it sure was fun, and as long as our rods were bent, there were smiles on our faces.
Early to rise on day two and a short row to ‘crooked shoot’, with a few fish along the way (mainly bass and a bunch of musky blow ups, nothing big landed).This was the only technical whitewater on our route, and we knew that the raft wasn’t gonna take the beating. So we broke down our equipment and prepared to portage it to safety on the far side of the rapids. This was fine for our packs and barrels, but there was no way the four of us could haul the raft through the kilometre long trail. While ken ran the kayaks with painstaking perfection through the complicated pools of rushing water, we brainstormed a solution. It would be rough, but we could do it. We had to haul the raft over a rocky outcrop, and down through and old logging chute. It took us most of the day to finally get back in the water. Ken had the stamina to keep fishing (which amazed me since he had to run the rapid twice, do a 1 k portage, and help line and haul the raft), Lisa and I needed to jump in the lake to clean off the stink of sun beaten labor, and Jim simply passed out in happy exhaustion with a glass of wine and a book.
Third day started sluggish, but offered the first real signs of musky. Ken called us over as he had stalked a musky in to a corner and felt like it was gonna strike. As we got the cameras rolling that fish exploded to the surface and finally stuck on a hopping frog. This began the ultimate musky fishing trip ever.
Musky are a tough fish to catch. Trust me, I have sat and watched the best try and fail for hours on end. That’s the way musky are. A frustrating fish, but when you catch one you will be willing to spend days trying to get the next monster. In pressured waters like the Madawaska River, we have sat for days with only one musky even bothering to bite a line. In Jim’s words, “You gotta be really patient, or a bit nuts to wanna catch one of these fish.” The Petawawa was different. Here, the musky were plentiful, powerful, and hungry for lures.
Ken had it dialed in for the next two days. The weather turned a little rainy and that only seemed to help the bite. Four big musky in 6 hours became the new record of the day as the veteran kayaker hauled in monster after monster. The trick was to hit the pools just before the rapids and just after with big Sebile Lures.
The musky were hungry for the little bass in the pools and the Sebiles were the perfect treat. This was the special day when lady luck shone down on our producer. This was Kens ultimate fishing day.
Jim was getting frustrated. He caught the only walleye of the trip and lots of little ‘skis but so far, no monster musky. The walleye made for a nice dinner, but his arm was getting sore from casting and no fish. His eyes were on the prize as our final day loomed on the horizon.
On the morning of the sixth day, there was fish for the great Sammons. First he conquered the bite, as finally a massive 38 incher stuck to his big silver Sebile. The rest of the day was followed by fish. Many fish. In three hours Jim caught 3 monsters. Bringing our count to 15 musky in 6 days. That many in a year would be a respectable amount. That many in just a few days is insane. Perfectly, wonderfully, Insane.
We even managed to walk away without lodging any hooks in our hands…
The most serene and wonderful camping trip of all time, complete with great food (from Backpackers Pantry) and great friends. The Petawawa river was an adventure of a lifetime. Amazing that it could be so close to home. Proves that sometimes, in order to find great adventure, you don’t need a lot of money, you just need to look a few miles from your own back door.
A quick thanks to the folks at ExOfficio, Ocean Kayak, NRS, Backpackers Pantry, Sweet Protection, Brunton and Mountain Hardwear for making this trip possible. Please give these guys a visit, and keep your eyes on the blog, as soon we will be telling you all about our crazy adventure in San Diego and northern Baja. We are hooking up with out old friends Paul Lebowitz and Matt Moyer for some more big game adventures
See you all in San Diego!
(Photos provided by Lisa Utronki and June Veenstra)